Thursday, October 03, 2013

Why I Love The Teachers Strike

Love is of course the wrong word. But loving something has, since the invention of liking something (the Facebook invention, that is), become a state of mega-liking. The vernacular now demands that because one finds something variously especially interesting, especially absurd or especially entertaining, one loves it. To just like it would not be sufficient, and it may be that this love is the consequence of the three variables I cite (there are bound to be others) having combined to create a state of love supreme. Where the teachers strike is concerned, it has.

To give an example of absurdity colliding with entertainment, let me give you what happened in the Balearic parliament the day after the big demo. When President Bauzá spoke, members of the opposition, some of whom were wearing the green t-shirt of protest, lay other t-shirts out in front of them. When the education minister spoke, not only were the t-shirts on display, so were signs saying "resign".

Dignities of parliaments and all that, here was just one manifestation of the often juvenile, always deeply partisan and divided nature of what passes for political debate. In fact, debate is also a wrong word. It is essentially name-calling that ends in a vote that is pre-determined (because there is never any dissent that leads to the party lines not being observed) by an institution - the parliament - which for all the good it does and purpose it serves may as well not exist. As the president and his cabinet demonstrated only three weeks ago, parliament is unnecessary when a government which has been given a telling-off by the high court gathers its cabinet together in an exclusive room and comes up with an alternative law and then later hands it to parliament as a fait accompli.

If you wish to know about Mallorcan society, culture, behaviour, politics, then you need look no further than the teachers strike and the issues that surround it and which have led to it. This is really why I love it, as it brings all these together under one tri-cornered umbrella of interest, absurdity and entertainment, calls it one thing - trilingualism - but achieves in being very many other things all at the same time.

It may not be necessary to identify these various issues, but in case they need spelling out, then here goes - the Catalan language, the Mallorquín dialect, regionalism, nationalism (the two competing types - Spanish versus Mallorcan), the in-any-event underperforming education system, Mallorcan attitudes (insularity, for example), union power, the political system. There are doubtless others, and of these, I'll select one, which isn't specifically a Mallorcan issue but which, nonetheless, indicates how impoverished the political system is because of the manipulation and apparent disrespect of the people.

The propaganda that has come from the government over TIL has at times been absurd, and I have loved it for the entertainment value that stems from this absurdity. It's a loving that is founded on not knowing whether to laugh or cry. It shouldn't be entertaining but how else can you reconcile some of it?

Propaganda works if people wish to believe it. Say something several times, then people do start to believe it, even when it's wrong. As evidence, I give you the case of the Partido Popular's manifesto, or at least the PP's claim that TIL was an election issue and one for which it received a majority at the last election. There is one very simple way of discovering that this was not the case, and anyone can do it. All that is needed is to go to the PP Balearics website and look at the manifesto. Nowhere is there any mention of teaching in a foreign language. There is reference to pupils having mastered a foreign European language by the time they leave school, but this does not equate to TIL; all it does equate to is what was already in place - the teaching of English, not teaching in English.

If TIL had been an electoral issue (which it wasn't), would it not have been the case that there would have been one mighty great discussion about it prior to the elections? There was no discussion, because there was no TIL. End of. TIL was invented in January this year because what had been an electoral issue - free selection (Castellano or Catalan) - failed totally. End of.

I shouldn't be entertained by the government treating the people as though they were idiots through attempting to spin into existence and the public consciousness something which didn't exist, but I can't help but be entertained by its sheer absurdity. I truly wish that I didn't love the teachers strike because I know how many parents are so utterly brassed off with it, but when I come to the write the book about Mallorca's society, culture and politics, it will have its own special place. Love it.

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